Homeschooling and legalities

(The following is excerpted from a course I’ve authored for teachers, parents and tutors who are homeschooling. The course is called The Homeschool Day, Curricula, Extracurricular Activity and Homework. It will be available early in February, at www.StepsEd.com)

Let’s begin with the good news and the bad news. The good news – you’re homeschooling. That’s the very first thing that we’re going to assume if you’re doing this course. You have decided to assume the responsibility for a homeschool child, or a group of them. You have pulled your student out of the clutches of a system that eats children up and spits them out without a twinge of conscience. You have taken a huge step toward being directly involved in the successful and happy future that you will help develop for your student.

Now the bad news- you’re homeschooling. You have decided to assume the full responsibility for a homeschool child, or a group of them. You have pulled your student out of the clutches of a system that eats children up and spits them out without a twinge of conscience, and placed them into…what? You have taken a huge step toward being directly involved in the successful and happy future that you will help develop for your student. This means that there’s no one else you can blame if things go poorly.

You’re homeschooling.

I very much hope that you’ve already done the first five courses in this program! They are all about preparing you to be a successful teacher. Those courses provide the tools, methods and ideas that you will really need, now that you’ve assumed responsibility for your student(s).

I will assume that you know how you want to teach. You’ve developed a good idea of your student’s goals, your own, the goals for the student that the parent’s hold, as well as the goals of the state for students in general. You have clearly defined in your mind the failure that is the critical approach to education, and have weighed it carefully against the system proposed, one that is student and admiration based. You’ve considered the standards that the rest of the world would like to establish for your student in as opposed to the set of standards you can develop working directly with your student, and those close to him. You’ve learned how to build truly useful tests and truly valuable tools, used to evaluate what a student did or did not learn, so that the student can be sent back to targeted review meant to result in 100% understanding of his studies. You have considered your own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, and have taken serious steps to prepare yourself to succeed on behalf of yourself and your student, and will continue to do so.

That, all in all, is far more preparation than many “professional” teachers ever get. And they are trained to use the critical approach to education, the very approach that destroys so many students, and that we assume you have dismissed as unworkable.

Now you’re homeschooling. The next four courses are intended to provide you methods and tools to succeed specifically at homeschooling, given its strengths and weaknesses. We will attempt to emphasize and make good use of the strengths of homeschool. We will also work to minimize the weaknesses, and turn them as much as is possible into strengths.

This particular course will focus on four areas of homeschool concern:

-The Homeschool Day
How many days a year should you homeschool? How long should each day be? How should the day of study be scheduled? What should be accomplished in a day of study?

-Curricula
What is it? How should you select courses or even the subjects to be studied? How can we evaluate progress and the success of the student using a given curricula? Where should you look for curricula? Should you write your own? If so, how would that be done?

-Extracurricular Activities
What should the student be doing with his outside-of-school time? What freedoms should the student have to elect what he does with his “free” time”? How can you help guide your student toward productive, creative uses of that time? How can extracurricular activities help develop the student’s education and interests.

-Homework
Why do it? When it is helpful or necessary? What limits should be placed on homework?

4. EXERCISE:
If you have not already, you will need to discover and fulfill your state’s requirements for homeschooling. These are legal requirements.

(If you’re in the United States:)

To get the current requirements, please use the link below:

http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp

This will take you to a page of the site of the Home School Legal Defense Association, with a map of the United States on it. The map is itself useful, color-coded to start you off. You want to be in a “green” state, at least given the map in December, 2010. In a green state, you do not need to serve notice to the “authorities” that you’re homeschooling.

To get the laws and restrictions unique to your state, click on any state. There you will locate an analysis of the laws that apply, as well as breakdowns for other issues which homeschoolers often run into, such as child labor laws (if yours is an actor, say, as one of mine was and is). You’ll want to read EVERYTHING that applies. And have a good dictionary available, you’ll need it.

The pdf doc that clicking each state opens will tell you many things. These will include the minimum number of days of homeschooling (or of school) required by the state in a school year. Also, the compulsory attendance age range, and options available in that state as to homeschooling, and teacher qualifications requirements.

You must fulfill the legal requirements for your state! This may require doing several things, including your signing up with the state, meeting with a required representative of the school district on a regular basis, signing with a satellite homeschool program, or any number of other moves. This is the very first thing you will need to take care of.

If you need to join a homeschool satellite program, there are many available in the U.S., almost all of them located on the Internet. You want one that does not place requirements on how you educate your child, but which instead takes care of legal documentation in conjunction with you. Some of these programs require the use of their curricula, and indeed, their program. This will severely limit your freedom and options, the strongest allies you will enjoy as a homeschooler. Do NOT join such a group!

Also, note that such satellite programs that sign up students do not need to be located in your state, generally, to service you.
You may be best off to start your own home school (officially) in your state. Your research may lead you to this end. Don’t be too concerned if it does, because in each state where this is required, there’s usually simple forms to fill out, sometimes a nominal processing fee, that’s about it. MANY people have gone this route to maintain control over their homeschool activities.

Whatever the requirements in your area, you must first find them out, and you will need to comply as homeschool parents. If you don’t, you will be running some absurd risks, including having the government step in to your private lives in ways you won’t like. Should they have the right to do so? Absolutely not. But they have given themselves the right.

(Outside of the United States.)

There are countries where homeschooling is almost entirely forbidden, such as Germany. Other countries have a far more open policy, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. You will need to locate the regulations for your area, and comply.

Try running a search on the Internet, with the name of your country or state, and“homeschool” after it. Such as:

Australia homeschool

You can modify it as needed, and here are some suggestions:

Australia homeschool laws
Australia homeschool regulations
Australia homeschool requirements

I ran searches as an experiment with all four of these, and got results each time.

One of these will bring you the info you need. Just be careful that the source isn’t trying to sell you something, because that makes them somewhat unreliable. You just want info as your first move. What is required? Find out.

Where you live is going to play a major role is how you homeschool, and even in whether or not you’re allowed to at all. Some countries where it is currently (2010) illegal to
homeschool: Argentina, Brazil, China (for citizens), Hong Kong, Croatia, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands (usually), Spain (usually), Sweden (usually), Turkey, and the Ukraine. If you live in one of these countries, you may wish to move, or work as a group to change their ridiculous restriction against homeschool.

Other countries allow it, but this does not mean that there are not complexities involved. You must find out exactly what restrictions and laws apply, and comply.

Whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, do this step first and be very thorough!

5. EXERCISE:
You will need to keep attendance for your homeschool student, for the purposes of the state and as proof that your student actually homeschooled.

Run this search for your area:

Keeping attendance for homeschool

In trying this, I came up with many results. Here’s a link to one free form I located:

http://homeschooling.about.com/od/recforms/ss/homeschoolforms.htm

Set up a book where ALL legal documents, including attendance, are neatly placed and organized, perhaps a 3-hole punch type, or one with envelopes. Have this on hand at all times, and up to date! You’ll need it if the state shows up or asks questions.

Set up your book with attendance in the front. A running and simple record of what subjects were studied and for how long should follow. Legal docs should be in the back of the book, stamped, approved, ready for view.
_____
_____

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

2 comments for “Homeschooling and legalities

  1. January 21, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Hi Steven

    Australian homeschoolers can check the Home Education Association’s pages for details on registration requirements in all the states. The Association has no hidden agenda and supports all homeschoolers, no strings attached: http://www.hea.asn.au/resources//default.asp?type=4

    The website is being updated at the moment and not all links are current, so please ask if you want me to verify information.
    My emails are: news@hea.edu.au or elsa@leatherwoodbooks.com.au

    As always, thanks for the useful article!

    Regards
    Elsa

  2. January 21, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Elsa knows from whence she speaks! She’s a great resource, folks.

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